PERCEPTIONS OF RISK: How We Manage Emergencies

University of Pennsylvania Faculty Senate Symposium
Co-sponsored by the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL)


How We Manage Emergencies
April 1, 2015
3:00 – 5:00 p.m., reception to follow
Fitts Auditorium | University of Pennsylvania Law School

The study of risk management across a variety of domains is an essential part of policymaking today. From public health to national security, market analysis, and natural disaster emergency response, the question of how to assess and to respond to risks is of the utmost importance.
Important questions pertaining to the public perception include:

Does the public perceive risks accurately or are public perceptions distorted by cognitive biases?
Should public perceptions of risk be taken into account in risk management plans even if they seem “irrational”?
Should preparedness for disasters follow the same template as management of more ordinary risks?
Should the management of risk in the public sector differ from that in the private?
Should the risk of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, be handled in the same way as the risk of human threats, such as terrorism or criminal activity?
Does a serious threat that persists over a protracted period of time, such as a daily threat of terrorism, still count as a security emergency?
When are restrictions of civil liberties, such as quarantines or preventive restraint, justified to pre-empt risk of harm to the general public?
The purpose of this Symposium is to foster multi-disciplinary and inter-professional conversation about risk perception and strategies of emergency management. The panelists will engage in a conversation about emergency preparedness and how our perceptions of risk factor into those efforts.


Professor P.J. Brennan, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President for the University of Pennsylvania Health System
Lieutenant General (Ret.) Russel Honoré
Led the Department of Defense Task Force in response to Hurricane Katrina
Professor Dan Kahan
Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School, specializing in risk perception
Vice President Maureen Rush, M.S., CPP
Vice President for Public Safety, University of Pennsylvania

Professor Claire Finkelstein
Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, Founder and Director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law
For more information please contact

Penn Law School ·
3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19104